INDIANAPOLIS — If you are a do-it-yourselfer and are considering working with wood, consider something that can save you a lot of time and make your project easier.
We’re talking pocket screws. You can make and connect all kinds of wood and take the pieces apart if necessary. For the best advice, I turned to some local experts to find out how to make that perfect connection between one board and another.
“Pocket screws can be used to make cabinets, base shelves, so many things. They’re easy to use if you have the little jig and tools,” says John Adams, owner of American Cabinets and Closets in Zionsville.
You basically clamp the pocket hole jig to your workpiece and drill angled holes with the special stepped drill bit into one of the pieces of wood you want to join. Then you simply align the two pieces to be joined and drive a pocket screw into the pocket at an angle to connect your pieces. That requires a long drill and a drill. Like most home woodworkers, the folks at American Cabinets and Closets Zionsville use pocket screws.
“They are very useful. Pocket screws are a type of joinery that allows you to join two pieces of wood together without using glue or staples, and they are strong,” says Gerald, store manager for American Cabinets and Closets.
Gerald explains how the joinery works.
“You drill one or two holes in a piece of wood that you want to connect to another piece. And then you need the set with the drill and jig. We have an older style that we can demonstrate with, although we have a machine that does this in our shop.
Gerald told us that you also need a good drill that is nice and sturdy and the jig. There are many types of jig kits to choose from on the Internet and local stores.
“This specialized drill with a depth setting collar fits into the holes of the jeg to drill out the wood. Make sure it’s just above the mold so you don’t go all the way through and ruin your mold. Tighten the collar and position it with the drill, tighten and it’s ready to use. Then align the jig with where you want the hole in the piece of wood, making sure it’s adjusted so it clicks into place when you clamp it. And then you drill your hole. Please, untie it and there’s your hole,’ Gerald said.
That 15 degree hole the jig makes is where the pocket screws go. The screws have a small shoulder so they hold better and don’t blow through the wood. To connect the planks, align them however you like and clamp them together so that they are nice and flat and aligned. By the way, not all kits come with a clamp and some kits do much of the alignment work for you. The kits range from $15 to $150 for the fancy ones.
Now it’s time to use the long drill that comes with the kits to drill the screw. It has a square-tipped bit that fits into this screw head. Make sure it’s nice and tight and slowly drill the screw in so it doesn’t break the wood.
The other big advantage of pocket screws is that they can be completely hidden.
Place the pocket screws on the outside of the cabinets where they will not be visible if covered by a wall, or end piece so that the screws are not visible. You don’t want anyone opening the doors and seeing your pocket hole screws on the inside,” Adams said.
And another advantage of pocket screws versus nails or glue is that if you mess up and put the pocket holes on the wrong side or they don’t line up properly, you won’t be stuck. You can simply unscrew them and take the pieces of wood apart.
Here’s another tip for using pocket screws that I found after messing up. Lay out the boards as they will be joined and mark exactly where you want to drill the holes! Sometimes, for example when assembling cabinets, it is easy to turn the shelves. The final tip is to drill into the stronger side grain of the wood, not the cross grain.
“It gets a little sensitive when you’re screwing into end grain, it gets a little sensitive and everything, because the wood wants to split when you go through that corner,” said Adams.
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